Magazine Websites

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Now, I’m going to look at the best magazine websites based on their usability and design. Because I did news websites, I thought it would only be better to do magazine websites, seeing how most of what we read is online now.

First on the list is Time Magazine. At a time (no pun intended) where the world needs access to a reliable news source, Time magazine has stepped up to the plate. They have built a site that is both easy to read and responsive. By displaying the featured news items on the left and the latest headlines on the right, Time Magazine has found a great way to balance the screen space.

Second is GQ Magazine. It’s no secret that GQ is one of the most popular men’s magazines out there, so why not try and achieve the same for the website. Right off the bat, you’re hit with fashion imagery with a banner that stretches from edge to edge. As you scroll down, you find a list of articles laid out beautifully in a stylish grid.

Third is National Geographic. Known for their beautiful photography, National Geographic spared nothing in bringing these images into their website. The site boasts simplicity and showcases big images with large, easy-to-read fonts. Each article is not limited to just one large image but comes with a variety of powerful photographs, some of the things that we’ve come to expect from this brand.

Last but not least is Newsweek. Newsweek’s website not only looks amazing on a desktop, but it also comes in a responsive version so you can access it anywhere on the go. That’s great since their website is full of amazing imagery and intriguing news stories. After clicking on an article to read more, you’re given a navigational bar that gives you access to all of Newsweek’s featured items.

Media Websites

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After researching different websites for audiences like children and american voters, I thought about media websites as well, mostly news publications. I decided to analyze some of these and find out why their design works. According to the poynter.org, these guys got it right.

  1. Identity.
    1. It’s important, according to poynter, that a news’ website know who they are and reflect their parent products’ brands.
      1. EX: The New York Times, MSNBC, USA TODAY
  2. Reader-Friendly
    1. Having a welcoming, and easy-to-read content is necessary for designing a news website.
      1. EX: CNN, Christian Science Monitor, International Herald Tribune
      2. The Christian Science Monitor has a very pleasing balance and hierarchy to its design. This comes from the use of space between items, a clear distinction between the main story headline and other story heads, and not using too many icons. This is a great example of why white space aids readability and creates balance. A dedicated section for ads is placed slightly downpage. The ads have a consistent width and enough space between them that they don’t get lost.

        CNN has a nice short left navigation bar, and picks the top headlines for each section displayed down page.

        The International Herald Tribune has headline with a short paragraph of text highlights the top stories, while the simple navigation points you to a section or region in an easy-to-use drop-down menu. On story pages, you have the option of adjusting the type size and layout so it is most comfortable for you to read. The one weakness is its obvious lack of photography on stories that need that reference to give the reader a complete picture.

  3. Beauty
    1. As you can tell from above, The International Herald Tribune wins this one.
  4. Simplicity
  5. Misc.
    1. BBC, The Washington Post
    2. The center section of the BBC News site has nice, chunky promos highlighting the day’s big stories, and a fairly simple navigation bar on the left. But, the right rail looks like it gets the leftovers thrown at it because of the inconsistencies in color palette and a sea of random images.

      What I like so much about the Washington Post site is that it has its own identity apart from the printed edition. It remains to be seen if that is positive or negative, but it does give it its own credibility. Check out the Camera Works section. It’s the best photo-driven section on the Web.

Do you want to include usability testing? UX Testing?

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Based on my research, I think it would be a smart idea to have usability testing to get another set of eyes or a perspective on how users will use my site. For example, for the most recent project I created a website without considering people who might look at the site on a mobile device. Usability is necessary because it is proven to decrease support costs, increase user satisfaction, and save on development and redesign efforts (blastam.com).

Another reason I think usability testing is needed for web design is because  it measures behavior, not preference. This can help me to understand what best supports the user’s goals and motivations.

Usability testing can make the site successful because it is an extra step that puts the users first. “The biggest challenge a website manager has is to understand how humans work, not how content management software or search engines work” (cmswire.com).

CMS wire refers to usability testing as a dire step for a website’s designed success. A website can be designed beautifully and colorfully, but that’s not the purpose of the site in the end. It all depends on the audience and the user’s experience.

“User behavior can change depending [on] the age, experience and interest of the user.” A great reason for usability testing. If I make a website on Veganism, I have to expect audiences of all types to understand what it is, and without user behavior in mind, I have practically just made a website for myself.